Style

A look can ‘evoke your creative identity’

Carrie Barker at her Pink Toast Ink, in an H&M jacket, blouse from Target, pants by Citizens of Humanity.
Carrie Barker at her Pink Toast Ink, in an H&M jacket, blouse from Target, pants by Citizens of Humanity. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte native Carrie Barker discovered her love of graphic design while working as an architect for Overcash Demmitt Architects. She started the graphic design firm Pink Toast Inc. in 2011 and employs two designers, an assistant and an intern. She and her husband, Derek, are expecting their first child. (That appears to have put a style signature of hers – pink hair – on hold; she says the color “seems not to be sticking.”)

Q. What does style mean to you?

A. It’s a way to evoke your creative identity.

Q. What would surprise people about your style choices?

A. Sometimes I will dress preppier than most people think I would. People who know me through networking know I have (had) the pink hair and they know it suits me, but that was a big leap for me to take. Before starting this company I was more of a conservative dresser.

Q. How does your sense of style help you do your job?

A. From the pink hair to looking put together, people take you more seriously. It’s an outer appearance of my creative style. I dress very modern, by staying ahead of the trends, and look polished, from having accessories to the shoes I wear.

Q. When did you find your style?

A. When I started Pink Toast. I grew up in the Catholic school system here, so I wore uniforms. In college I tried a lot of styles but never had my own style. Then I met a few clients who were very stylish, and I clicked with them and I took cues from them. I buy some expensive pieces and some cheap pieces.

Q. What’s a fashion mistake many make?

A. Not being true to themselves. You can wear anything you want if you own it.

Q. What does your style say about you?

A. It says that I am creative and put together, and I don’t know if it says I’m successful, but that I have my head on straight and I’m doing good things in this world.

Q. What’s your power outfit?

A. Ankle-length booties, a skinny pant, a really blousy shirt, probably layered necklaces and bracelets, a jacket, and hair and makeup done, with a bright lipstick. If you have a red lip or a pink lip it brings attention to you. It’s like a power lip.

Q. Is there a trend now that you are particularly attracted to?

A. The boyish oversized shirt look with a really tight jean, so it’s mixing that masculine and feminine look. Or the opposite, doing a boyfriend jean and dressing the rest up femininely. The duality is really cool.

Q. What piece of clothing was a game changer for you?

A. The past three years I started getting into wearing vegan moto leather jackets.

Q. What product made you say ‘Wow’?

A. I think everything that Kate Spade makes is amazing.

Q. Where do you shop?

A. The two places I shop the most are Madewell and J. Crew. J. Crew is that more preppy feminine side and Madewell brings in the edge. I’ll shop at Petal to find really good basics. My girlfriend owns an online dress shop called Social Dress Shop.

Q. Tell me about your shoes.

A. I’m a bargain hunter because I’m really tough on shoes. I like shoes that are versatile, and that have a different detail, some kind of gold trim or a button that makes them special, or the smart use of two tones.

Q. What’s the last thing you bought?

A. A really cool oversized knit T-shirt from J. Crew that will fit me through pregnancy.

Q. Describe a favorite detail.

A. I really like zippers: The trend with the exposed zipper on the back of the dress and on purses and on shoes. It’s a function that turns into a cool design piece.

Q. Name an item you thought would never work for you but does.

A. Patterns. I have always shied away from really bold patterns but whenever I buy one it is the thing I wear all the time.

Q. How are graphics represented in your wardrobe?

A. One way is through different color blockings. The second way is I’ve started a T-shirt business, called “Pink Social,” which is a collaboration between Social Dress Shop and Pink Toast.

Q. How do you organize your closet?

A. I don’t. It is organized chaos.

Q. Do you have any particular fashion quirks?

A. If I don’t wear makeup, I always line my eyebrows and wear lipstick. A pet peeve would be people who worry about sticking to rules, like ‘Should I wear white in the fall?’ or wearing brown and black, or navy and black. You can do that right if you do it well.

Q. What’s your biggest splurge?

A. For our grand opening we had a Christmas party and I spent a ton of money on a Helmut Lang dress. It’s a long pink sleeveless dress with almost a muscle tee cut, so it was very modern.

Q. What can you not believe you once wore?

A. I can’t believe I once wore JNCOs. Most people in my generation probably can’t believe they wore them.

Q. What advice can you give to women?

A. Buying nice things is great. Make sure they are timeless pieces that will last, and buy the trendy pieces on the cheaper side.

Q. Who is your muse?

A. Other creative women living their dream, whatever that dream may be.

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